Tuesday night, Donald Trump notched another entry in his seemingly never-ending series of campaign rallies. Appearing in Phoenix, the President used the event as he normally does: To bask in the lunatic cheers of his blissfully ignorant base. At this point, Trump could sacrifice a goat live on stage at one of these things, then sell a hundred thousand Trump-branded goat sacrifice kits on his website the next day to his fawning fans. But this rally was different in one important way. While we always wish that the early 2020 campaign hate-fests he holds (for the tiny minority of America that still supports him) were illegal, there was one part of the Arizona affair that was against federal law.
Ironically enough, the illegal part of the evening was the simple announcement of guest speaker Ben Carson.
Nearly 80 years ago, FDR signed the Hatch Act into law, a rule preventing federal employees from engaging in certain campaign activity. Basically, it is meant to keep partisans from using their high position from influencing elections. So for example, an Army General couldn’t campaign for his favorite candidate while in his uniform, or on duty, or to his subordinates.
Now, while Trump has not billed the events he holds in various Republican strongholds as “campaign stops,” because that would be ridiculous only seven months into his presidency, he also doesn’t want to be accused of using taxpayer money for what can generously be described as self-gratification. So Donald Trump pays for the rallies we see every few weeks using campaign money. Whether he calls it campaigning or not, using campaign money to hold any event is a partisan affair.
So when the announcer for the event called Carson to the stage, the campaign could have kept the whole thing legal by simply introducing him as “a friend of the president.” It’s not like he was wearing a uniform denoting him as a federal employee. The rules are actually pretty simple to follow. Instead, it was:
The Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Doctor Ben Carson!”
With those fourteen words, Team Trump once again ran afoul of the Hatch Act, breaking the law, and proving one of two things: Either Trump doesn’t understand this stuff, or he just doesn’t care.
Featured image via Ralph Freso/Getty Images